What is a blog for? 8

Apparently we are beyond the point in human history when problems must be solved interpersonally.

Wondermark by David Malki

I suppose that title is not grammatically perfect, but it gets the idea across. The comic above brought the question to mind again, what do we expect our blog to be? A public forum or a private place for reflection? I have always assumed that what I post on the internet, comments, pictures, emails to a discussion group, anything and everything will be available for all to read. Yet I regularly come across people who, like the chap in the last panel (enlarge the image if you cannot read it) who insist that the blog “is MY PRIVATE SPACE.”

I know one person who regularly posted interesting and thought provoking pieces but when people commented with opposing views she would get angry and eventually stopped posting and shut down her blog as a result. This made no sense to me. Aside from the fact that she could have turned off commenting, how is that people reading and writing blogs today do not understand that it is a very public act?

I do know that many of our students come into college with a fairly narrow view of their readership, only their friends read their facebook status. Until they invite the dean of their college to be their friend…. This year we are requiring our first year students to keep a blog/journal and part of the exercise and experience is to get them to realize that they need to “think out loud,” to engage with ideas and issues in the public arena not simply so that their voice can be heard, but so that they can interact with others of opposing view. Cliché though it now may be, Prov. 27.17 still rings true.

Iron sharpens iron,
and one person sharpens the wits of another.

So I wonder what you all understand your blogs to be? For me it is personal in the sense that I am the one writing it and I have decided not to limit my posts to simply my field of study or one particular interests. If you follow Targuman you get a pretty good cross-section of my interests and thoughts. I know that others view their blog as an extension of their research and only blog on biblical studies, etc. Others still use it as a megaphone. If you have a blog, how do you use it, what do you understand it to be about? Public, private, idiosyncratic?


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8 thoughts on “What is a blog for?

  • Bryan

    Another negative outcome of seeing one’s blog as a private space is the proliferation of whiny, self-centered blogs (which has become the stereotypical norm, unfortunately.) There is always a challenge in being personal and authentic in view of people that you do not know.

    I write mainly for myself, though I hope that posts will be helpful to people who come across them. To the degree that others find it useful, the blog is an extension of my teaching (church and university). However, I would still find it personally valuable even in the absence of readers.

    That said, an important secondary use of the blog for me is engaging the community. I learn a lot from you folks. This is especially good for me because I am the only Hebrew Bible faculty member on campus, so I appreciate conversation partners where I can find them.

  • Keith

    I view the blog as public, but am often “self-censorial” when discussing issues with certain people–choosing to not tell this or that person that I have blogged on the very topic, or choosing to hide the fact that I have a blog at all.

    I believe I am gradually coming to grips with the fact that my blog makes conflict of opinion obvious and public. This informs the topics I choose to blog about. And maybe is stretching me to be less concerned about the reactions of others.

  • Michael Whitenton

    I started my blog to be an extension of my research, but to be honest I find it can get pretty exhausting only posting on such things. I’ve been considering a more eclectic approach, like the one you have.

    I also have a tendency to be concerned that an idea that I let out of the bag too early may get snatched up by someone else (oh, I’m that important, I know!). Perhaps that concern is unfounded. Perhaps it just comes with the territory.

  • Alex Lampros

    Though I’m still something of a blog-neophyte, for me the quality of being a “public interface” is what has always been essential to my understanding of my blog.

    First, I keep both a blog (albeit a shabby one!) and a personal diary, and I have noticed that the content, quality, and style of the respective entries are worlds apart. The public nature of a blog seems to (at least for me) change the way I comport myself towards the discourse – that is, if I take to writing an esoteric private journal entry, I don’t drag my feet and waste time explaining something that I understand, but might not be altogether clear to someone else, because I’m the only one that needs to understand. I am writing to myself.

    In a blog post, however, I’m writing to a kind of singular “they” and, therefore, have to take the time to explain my thoughts in a way that presupposes as little as possible. This difference changes the way I write and think, and is THE reason I started blogging in the first place. In a blog post I am FORCED to consider a battery of perspectives, because anyone COULD be reading my words. It really is a mental exercise of a very different rank and stripe from what I’m used to, and adds a whole new dynamic to my thoughts that I would not often experience otherwise (holding multiple perspectives in my head at once while trying to think through a new idea becomes an increasingly ticklish with every new perspective I consider).

    In this sense, my blog is BOTH private and public. I’m not necessarily writing FOR a collective group of readers when I blog, I’m writing FOR myself AS IF I were writing for a collective group of readers!!

    To me, my blog is a tool – just like calculus or screwdrivers – it’s a place that forces me to think differently, to organize my thoughts in a intelligible way in order to clearly express myself, to find my own thoughts (I didn’t know what I thought about my blog space until I opened up my word processor and started to hash out my ideas for a blog comment), to find out where/how those thoughts might be flagging! I also might (but haven’t lately) use it to stay engaged with ideas (if I’m constantly blogging about ideas in an engaging way, then, naturally, I’m engaging those ideas!). The public forum helps me stay critical in my posts while searching for a creative and novel entry (often a difficult balance to negotiate, hence the need for practice!) – that is, I’m much more careful about what kinds of assumptions I’ll allow myself to make, or how I qualify my claims, since I’m forced to consider what POSSIBLE audiences COULD potentially take me to task in various ways. Most of all, blogging helps my writing. It’s no great secret that the best way to improve your writing is to write. Well a blog, for me, provides a forum where I can do just that – since I know that what/how I write reflects upon my public image (whereas my private journal does not!), my blog provides INCENTIVE for me to take extra special care to formulate my thoughts in clear and consistent prose – “perfect practice makes perfect” – Vince Lombardi (not exactly a proverb, but hey…).


  • John Anderson

    Blogging serves multiple purposes for me:

    1) Networking: with the job hunt looming (actually, beginning), I thought it would be a great tool to establish connections and get my name out there in a small area of academia. Thus far I think it has been a helpful tool towards that end. I also feel I have made a great many ‘friends’ through this, and I look forward, hopefully, to meeting many of them at SBL.

    2) To get feedback: I concur that blogging for sake of arrogance is a problem. I am not (yet!!) an established scholar, though I have published and presented at SBL often. That said, no matter my level of expertise, I have always found my ideas honed by conversation with colleagues. Blogging provides another avenue of conversation that will press me on points to clarify and affirm those that are sound.

    3) Idiosyncracies/entertainment: I genuinely believe the questions I am asking are unique. Thus, I think I have something to contribute. Recently, a bit more personal side has popped up on my blog, with some more personal posts. My blog indeed, as others have noted, echoes very well, generally, my interests (academic posts on Genesis, Brueggemann, etc., but also posts on the Colbert Report, etc.). I do, though, best I can, strive to keep the blog ‘professional.’


    • Brenda Heyink

      I began blogging as a way of letting famiy and friends know what I was up to when I moved halfway across the world to study further and begin a new adventure. Writing that blog has been really good for me – it has become a place not only where friends and family hear about my life, but also a way for me to share the joys and challenges of living in a Christian community. And in writing about my experiences, I see them differently. It helps me process the difficult things and remember again on the things that give joy and hope.

      Since that has been such a positive experience, I’ve decided to try my hand at a biblioblog. It’s struggling a bit – but I’m hoping that it will achieve my hopes for it – at least sooner or later. I hope it to be a place for me to focus more academically/intellectually on certain things – and also engage in dialogue with others. And it will hopefully be a push for me to write out and focus more on what I’m doing academically. We’ll see how it goes…